Broken garage door springs are by far the most common reason for a service call we get. In short, garage door springs have a limited lifespan and they don’t break gracefully. When they go, you know it and operating the garage door becomes very difficult. In addition, they rarely break at a convenient time making the repair that much more urgent. In this article, we dive into the details and describe ways to maintain the springs and reduce the need for emergency service.
How Do Garage Door Springs Work?
Garage door springs are made of heavy gauge steel wire wound up as a spring. When the spring is installed, a garage door technician manually winds the spring so there is some force stored in the spring when the door is closed. In short, the torsion spring wants to unwind by lifting the door but the weight of the door keeps it in place. As a result, the weight of the door and the force in the spring counter each other. This stored force allows you to lift a door that weight over 100 pounds without too much effort. As you lift the door, the spring unwinds reducing the amount of upward force it’s applying which coincides with the weight of the door being transferred to the horizontal tracks. Here’s a video that demonstrates the concept.
The key here is that the spring simply winds and unwinds every time the door is opened or closed. Over time, metal gets fatigued and loses strength so it’s normal for torsion springs to wear out and break.
Garage door springs are rated by how many cycles they are expected to last. Heavy duty springs are made of stronger materials so they last longer. No matter what type of spring you install, eventually, garage door springs break.
Now, let’s look at what affects torsion springs and leads to failure.
Worn Out Garage Door Springs
Standard torsion springs that come with most new garage doors can last around 10,000 cycles with a cycle being one open and close of the door. Driving your car going in an out of the garage daily adds up to 730 cycle per year so cycles can add up fast. In short, with average usage, homeowners can expect around 7 years of service from their garage door torsion springs. This is simple wear and tear so the life of your springs will be directly related to how often you open and close the door. Therefore, the less your use the door, the longer the springs can last.
Garage door springs are made of metal so they are prone to rust. In areas with a lot of moisture and salt (like road salt), rust becomes a greater issue. Rust causes additional friction when the spring winds and unwinds. As a result, the spring metal will typically fatigue sooner. In addition, rust reduces the integrity of the metal causing premature wear. So if you’re in an area that gets a cold snowy winter, corrosion on the springs is a factor. You can reduce the impact of rust by spraying your springs with lithium grease or silicone spray 2 or 3 times a year. You can also have them lubricated by garage door pros like Sawtooth as part of a maintenance program. Money well spent if it avoids an unexpected garage door failure!
You should make it a habit to lubricate your spring as described above. In addition to lubrication, garage doors should be checked for balance on a regular basis. We mentioned that the garage door spring provides a counterbalancing force above. If your door is not balanced, it could be a sign of a problem and may be time to call for service. We routinely check garage door balance as part of any maintenance call.
To check your garage door balance, pull the release cord to put the door in manual mode. Then, lift the door about halfway and let go. The doors should remain at that level. However, if it falls down or sags, then your springs may be failing. We would suggest calling for service to get it looked at before it fails at a bad time.